"We Are The Sum Total Of Our Experiences"

I read this article that was shared by an acquaintance on Facebook earlier today and it resonated so deeply with me that I knew I had to put it up here: 


You can click on the link above to read the whole article but I thought I'd reproduce the parts which I really liked:
There's a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money: that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation. According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong. "One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation," says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. "We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them."

It's counter-intuitive that something like a physical object that you can keep for a long time doesn't keep you as happy as long as a once-and-done experience does. Ironically, the fact that a material thing is ever present works against it, making it easier to adapt to. It fades into the background and becomes part of the new normal. But while the happiness from material purchases diminishes over time, experiences become an ingrained part of our identity. "Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods," says Gilovich. "You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.

Another reason is that shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption. You're much more likely to feel connected to someone you took a vacation with in Bogotá than someone who also happens to have bought a 4K TV"We consume experiences directly with other people," says Gilovich. "And after they're gone, they're part of the stories that we tell to one another." And even if someone wasn't with you when you had a particular experience, you're much more likely to bond over both having hiked the Appalachian Trail or seeing the same show than you are over both owning Fitbits.

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I have always been more of an "experience" kind of girl; I fret over pros and cons and go through multiple levels of research and internal debate before I can bring myself to buy material things like bags and shoes, but I have no qualms paying good dollars for films, concerts and theater plays and (of course) the best experience of them all... holidays.

Saliheen and I have had questions which translate to this same sentiment: "Why do you spend so much on travelling? Why not spend that money on something that you can touch and keep or invest your money so it can multiply?" It frustrates us a little when we don't know how to explain to doubters that the whole experience of discovering how others live in their part of the world, learning their quirks and their histories, sampling diverse flavours of various cuisines, and immersing ourselves in different cultures is what we're after (and why) - and no amount of material goods or investment plans can ever enrich us, educate us and enlighten us as much as travelling does.

We truly believe that the memories and the knowledge that we gain after our travels is worth every single cent - why is that so difficult to comprehend? Kan aku sampai terbukak aku punya poem. (Of course I should probably point out that at the end of the day, how we choose to spend our own money is really not anyone's business) 

4 comments

  1. I used to get a lot of these detractors questioning me when I was single and blowing off a substantial part of my savings on holidays. One way to look at it is, I want to travel when I'm young and healthy, can queue for hours for donuts instead of freezing my butt off when I'm 60-smth, retired and can barely walk a mile. Come to think of it, I would rather be 60-smth, retired and telling people stories of my travels rather than trying to recall where I placed that goddamn Chanel bag.

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  2. I for one have the same exact sentiments. I will dwell and ponder a long time to get bags and shoes, etc but I have no problem committing to a holiday/trip anytime. These are memories that'll forever be etched. :)

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    1. High five! I really don't mind wearing the same shit over and over again, as long as it means the saved monies can go towards my vacations and every other experiences! <3

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